In a little flurry of releases that hit right when this blogger was desperately trying to finish another Slog about how much he loves the ballet, county and city officials announced new spending programs that aim to prop up artists and arts organizations facing potentially millions in losses due to government-mandated closures.
On the city side, the Mayor’s Arts Recovery Package invests $1 million in an Arts Stabilization Fund and $100,000 in aid to two private relief funds for Seattle artists.
The city's dumping $50,000 of that second pot of money into Ijeoma Oluo's "Seattle Artists Relief Fund Amid COVID-19." Oluo, author of So You Want To Talk About Race?, started the GoFundMe early last week for artists whose events have been canceled. LANGSTON helps oversee the funds. Seattle-area artists can apply here.
Mayor Jenny Durkan is dumping the other $50,000 into the Artist Trust COVID-19 Artist Relief Fund, which provides "unrestricted cash grants" between $500 and $5,000 for artists who have lost wages, speaking gigs, teaching gigs, and/or who can't pay their rent, mortgage, medical expenses, or other living expenses due to coronavirus-related closures. Applications will open Friday. Stay tuned for a link then.
Additionally, through the newly created Arts Stabilization Fund, the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture will funnel $1 million in grants to arts and cultural organizations forced to shutter as local governments try to flatten the curve.
The county's art authority, 4Culture, also announced a Cultural Relief Fund of $1 million for "cultural organizations and practitioners affected by COVID-19 closures and cancellations." Details on a timeline are sparse at the moment, but the department promises rolling deadlines and a simplified grant application process.
This direct funding relief is welcome, but on its own it may not fully meet the need. Nobody quite knows the size of that need for sure, but one local arts consultant guesses Seattle's arts institutions will collectively lose between $2 and $3 million per week so long as the doors stay shut.
Unlike the federal government, which is currently considering writing stimulus checks to every American, local governments can't put a bunch of money on a credit card to keep everybody's lights on for a couple weeks—or months—as we all hunker down. The Mayor's funding packages come, for instance, as the city looks down the barrel of at least $100 million in lost revenue due to a projected drop in sales taxes, businesses-and-occupation taxes, and utility taxes, according to the Seattle Times.
More direct relief for the arts could come further down the line, though. "It is the latest, but probably not the last" of the city's efforts, said Erika Lindsay, a spokesperson for the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture.